Ghost in the Shell (2017) – Rupert Sanders

Paramount Pictures’ live action adaptation of the classic anime, Ghost in the Shell, hits blu-ray and DVD today.

I am going to eschew any discussion of the white-washing controversy surrounding the film’s production, and just focus on the movie itself. I love the original anime, and constantly saw it as kin to the cinematic version of Blade Runner. There are similar themes running throughout it, the idea of corporations destroying what it means to be human, while we as individuals and as part of society try to figure out what that concept means.

The story follows Major (Scarlett Johansson) a human brain put into a synthetic machine, working for a defence department known as Section 9. She finds herself caught up in a manhunt for Kuze (Michael Pitt), a mysterious figure who is attacking scientists working for the massive Hanka corporation.

With her partner, Batou (Pilou Asbaek) at her side, Major is caught up in politics, morality, and violence as she conducts her investigation, and soon finds herself remembering parts of her past life, something Hanka has tried to keep secret.

Scarlett brings an innocence and artificiality to Major that helps to convey her struggle with her own identity. When the action beats come along, she seems comfortable, or rather, Major seems comfortable, with her programming,

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The film looks and sounds slick on blu-ray, the images sharp and clear, and it makes me think, once again, that Ghost and Blade Runner are related, and may exist in close to the same universe, though Ghost is brighter, and less dystopian. Course, an argument could be made that North America had fallen, and Japan and it’s neighbouring counties grew to power, and success.

Let’s be clear, I’m not putting Ghost on the same level as Blade Runner, one of my favourite films, but I;m saying I see that they could exist in the same universe.

Those who know the material will recognise the story, as well as a number of visual cues (nicely transitioned from the animated version), those who don’t may be expecting more action than the film has. It delves more into cyber-mystery than anything else, highlighted with some fairly solid action sequences.

I think this version makes a nice companion piece not only to the anime, but to the original manga – giving us variations on a theme. That being said, it’s not going to please everyone, there will be some who expect it to be more than it is, or to be more faithful to the source material, or that Scarlett shouldn’t have been cast. I can take all of those things in stride, evaluate the film on its own, and decide that while it’s not a perfect film, it is definitely a visually arresting one with a completely realised world at its heart.

And on top of that, it has some thought-provoking ideas, much like its source material. If you aren’t keen on reading the original story, or anime, you could do worse than watching this adaptation. I enjoyed it.

There are also some nice making of features on the blu-ray that make this version well worth the watch.

Ghost in the Shell is available on blu-ray and DVD from Paramount Pictures today.

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